Front: Jeck Frazer and Chris Klingler. Back L to R: Dean Hammer, deputy in charge or work program, Kevin Bowes, Brad Weinheimer, Mike Winke, David Nunn.
On Friday, March 28 the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office unveiled two newly renovated marine patrol boats. The Bruce E. Mettler is a 27’ Boston Whaler Vigilant center cabin patrol vessel and is primarily used for marine patrol duties. The other boat is a 32’ Boston Whaler Justice center-helm patrol vessel and is primarily used for the Northern Border Initiative Project. Both of these vessels are run on grant money and were renovated at no cost to the tax payer because they were renovated by inmates in the work program.
An estimated $100,000 has been saved around Ottawa County because of the inmate work program. Some of the inmates were already trained in trade, for example one inmate worked in the fiberglass industry, and others were willing to learn.
“It’s taking something negative and turning it into a positive,” said David Nunn. “I’m taking something I already knew and applied it to something I could do to help the community.”
Other inmates who didn’t know how to refurbish boats were glad for the chance to learn something new.
“This has been a real life experience,” said Chris Klingler. “I’m not from here and I have learned all about the islands and about boats. I am a plumber so this has taught me a new trade. The Sheriff’s Department is treating us well. If I weren’t in this program I would have never learned this trade.”
The vessels have gotten a lot of use in the past and have been on many rescues.
“Ottawa County has more lakefront, a larger body of water and more marinas and boats than any other county in Ohio,” said Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick. “It’s only right that we have a marine patrol that is active and has a strong safety presence on the water.”
In the past recreational boaters may have experienced multiple stops by Coast Guard, Border Patrol or local law enforcement boats. In 2013 Governor Kasich passed the Freedom Boaters Act which establishes criteria for watercraft safety inspections. Before, any boat could be stopped for anything. Now to be stopped, the vessel can only be stopped if there is an observed violation or a specific reason. This frees the marine patrols to more quickly attend emergencies and to allow recreational boaters to have more freedom on the water.
The two vessels in the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol have assisted thousands of boaters and have, to this date, saved 59 lives. For more information on the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol or the inmate work program visit ottawacountysheriff.org.